It’s 3 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon and The Hatrick is running late for an interview.
After a long weekend ending in Rolla, where the band played for a group on a float trip at “one of the coolest gigs ever,” members Sean Canan, Pat Kay and Scott Anderson found it difficult to rouse themselves for the drive back to Columbia. When they did arrive for the interview, they were a member short; Canan was missing in action. Kay explained this was not out of the ordinary, saying with a laugh, “He never allows anything to go smoothly or normally. He’s always up to something.”
Canan did show up, however, and with all three members present, it quickly became evident they share the same easygoing congeniality that seems to characterize the entire Columbia music scene. Friendly insults were tossed back and forth, people were interrupted and a portrait emerged of a group formed for pleasure not profit.
The Hatrick members make it a point to include songs from other groups they admire in their sets and even view their band as a “kind of promotional tool for a lot of good talent that’s around,” said Kay, whose favorite song to play is “12-inch Three-Speed Oscillating Fan” by Big Smith of Springfield. In many instances, the group invites members of other bands to sit in and play for a night.
“We want to get to a point where we represent the music of our own bands and our friends’ bands,” said Kay. He and Anderson are founding members of the popular local band The Hipnecks, while Canan plays for Bockman. “We’d like to eventually take a couple of our songs and a couple songs from the bands we’ve become friends with and have that be our set for the night,” Kay said.
“I think it’s a sign of a healthy musical community when bands merge like that for side projects,” said Big Smith guitarist Mark Bilyeu of the collaboration. “I know from my personal experience, if you end up playing the same music with the same bunch of people every night, you start to get stale creatively and musically.”
Like many Columbia bands, The Hatrick grew out of friendship. The band began in 2000 with Kay and Anderson and has existed under a variety of names since their days at Westminster College. The two began playing acoustic shows together at a Fulton bar called The Tap Room and have not stopped since, despite founding and ultimately making a full-time enterprise out of their larger band, The Hipnecks.
“The Hatrick is basically an offspring of what we’ve always envisioned doing,” Anderson said. “It’s a way to continue playing music because it fits our schedules even though it might not necessarily fit everyone else’s.”
After Canan sat in with the band for a few gigs, his vocal abilities and striking talent for harmonizing led Kay and Anderson to make him a permanent member in September of last year.
“When we added Sean we felt we had something we could market and push into full time,” Kay said.
The band’s inimitable dynamic and sound is achieved through the eclectic mix of The Hipneck’s multi-instrumentalists Kay and Anderson, and Bockman’s Canan, a self-described specialist in foot tambourine and “guttural noises.”
“I do a lot of hollerin’ — hootin’ and hollerin’. It’s the traditional bluegrass coming out,” Canan said. “To signal to the group that a change is coming up, I let out a mighty grunt.”
“It’s something you could hear at a wedding where all ages would get up and start dancing,” said fan Joe Debenito of the group’s unique sound, which he described as “an original combination of folk, blues, funk and rock rolled into one.”
Brent Maness of the Columbia band The Doxies has played with The Hatrick and dubs the band’s music “an organic hodgepodge of classic country-rock and contemporary hillbilly-tinged pop.”
The Hatrick has a growing schedule and tangible popularity among the college crowd of Columbia’s bar scene. The group takes the stage at Forge and Vine every Wednesday night and plays the Fieldhouse and Shiloh every Thursday to a roaring crowd of (mostly) 20-somethings.
The Hatrick boasts a repertoire ranging from original Hipneck and Bockman songs to covers as diverse as Afroman’s oft-requested “She Won’t Let Me” and Rap megastar Nelly’s hit “E.I.,” which is so reliably and aggressively demanded by one fan that he has fondly come to be known by the band as “E.I. Guy.” It is this spontaneity and range, coupled with the band’s own youth, good timin’ attitude and playful engagement with the crowd that makes them such a superb bar band.
“The kind of places we’re hired to play, a lot of the time we’re sort of a human jukebox,” Canan explained. Kay added, “A lot of the times we play requests it’s the first time we’ve ever played them.”
Canan said performing with The Hatrick is refreshingly different from playing with his own band. “We’re not necessarily playing where people are coming to see us,” he said. “We’re, in essence, a bar band because we’re there to just entertain who’s there. We’ve gotten good at toeing the line between being background music and being interactive.” As Maness put it, “Whether you’re out to stomp your feet or just drink the night away, Hatrick provides great motivation.”
Anderson said that playing in a college town such as Columbia certainly has its advantages, supplying the group at times with more work than it can handle and allowing the band to fill its schedule without the added expense of traveling. Despite their popularity, the guys are still reluctant to accept the prospect of making music their livelihood.
“We all get a little bit closer every day to making a career out of this,” said Kay. “Every time we go out on a limb, it seems to work out.”
Said Anderson: “I think if any one of our bands ever made it big, this experience would really make us appreciate it. There’s bands out there that have never had to carry their amps.”